In 2016 I lost my Husband to heart failure. We had been together for 32 years. He loved me and I him, even through my drinking career, he always had my back. Grief lasted a long time, and I kept asking my departed husband for answers, those of us who have lost a partner either through death or divorce, will know what I mean. With practicalities, DIY, concerns about my business, cars, tradespeople, banks, the list went on and on. It is only in the last 12 months I have stopped – completely. The process of grief is long and finding your feet incredibly difficult.
I have realised that what had happened during our relationship is that I had become, dependent, to the point of co dependency. This year I have started to trust my own judgement, learned how to put shelves up, and much more, believe in my own decisions. Since starting the Couples programme, There is no doubt my situation is not unusual, there are many similarities to mine. I am not suggesting that Michael was manipulative, but I was very easily led by him, just as I was with alcohol. My personality had become one of pleasing, caring about what he would want and others, losing my creative side, which is vivid, probably eccentric, but it’s me.
1991 was the start of it. We lost our forever home in the recession of that time, it was more than a house, it was a lifestyle and I was confident, bold and made it everything that I wanted it to be. To lose it was an awful blow to Michael although he wouldn’t show it, for me the insecurity was unbearable, and I became doubtful of everything I thought and couldn’t imagine making a decision alone ever again. My drinking ramped up, adding to the anxiety and low self esteem. By 1995 I had stopped, but was not whole again by any stretch of the imagination.
We rented. Michael always said there was no point nesting in rented property. I went along with him. Any spare money it seemed was spent on his work, his cars, and rightly our sons education. In truth, I wanted to spend on comfy sofas, curtains, decorating, dogs and chickens. I settled for second best. Before I started The Sanctuary studying for my qualifications, I worked all sorts of part time jobs whilst Michael worked away. He was a gypsy really, I should have recognised that, I am a homing pigeon.
I internalised criticism, became defensive, and because of the lifestyle lost assumed that none of my old friends would want to socialise with me. Michael said we had to start again, when actually I should have strived for more independence and control over financial affairs, kept my friends close, and where I saw my life going, rather than everyone else’s.
For the last 5 years of Michaels life I was ostensibly his carer. I had started the Sanctuary, was supporting the family and still not brave enough or I thought, clever enough, to juggle mainstream stuff. I also thought Michael would feel even more useless not having anything to do, I wanted him to keep telling me that everything would be okay, I was doing a good job, HE had to confirm that I was a useful engine.
As of now, I stand alone. I am not looking for a prop, human or otherwise. If I’m not praised every day I don’t care. Alcohol stripped me of my true personality, it made me frightened to be brave and make my own decisions. My marriage might have been long, and this is very hard to admit, for the most part if I had been in the driving seat more often, it could have been much happier, and way more balanced as a partnership. I take the responsibility for that, my drinking most definitely paved the way.
My couples programme does not just come from studying, it comes from experience.